How Arré navigated its way into India’s homegrown OTT space

Play. Pause. Repeat.

Netflix entered the Indian market in 2016. Coupled with the internet revolution brought in by Reliance Jio, it turned tables in the big-screen-Bollywood-obsessed country.

by Neha Gupta | December 10, 2019

Credit: Shruti Yatam from Arré India

With data costs as low as 18.5 INR ($0.26) per GB, India is set to become the second largest video-consuming audience of 500 million in 2020, from the current 250 million, according to a report by Ernst and Young.

Even though India sees an influx of international players such as Netflix, Prime and YouTube, it also boasts of homegrown platforms such as ALTBalaji, Voot, Eros Now and ZEE5.

The Indian media market currently hosts more than 30 over-the-top (OTT) players. The country is expected to overtake South Korea in the next five years to become the world’s eighth biggest OTT player, as per a report by PwC India.

OTT services are set to grow at 21.8% CAGR to reach $1.7 billion by 2023 from $638 million in 2018. Subscription video on demand will grow at 23.3% CAGR to $1.5 billion, 89.4% of the overall revenue.

Arré, India’s first multi-format, multi-genre digital media brand, bagged the “Best in Lifestyle, Sports, Entertainment Website or Mobile Services” award earlier this year at WAN-IFRA’s World Digital Media Awards.

Co-founded by B Saikumar, Ajay Chacko and Sanjay Ray Chaudhuri, the Mumbai-based start-up brings to India’s new-generation digital audiences a range of contextual storytelling and entertainment using video, audio, graphic-art and text.

Arré, which likes to define its core audience aged between 18-35 years as “attitudinally millennial,” was launched in 2015 with an intention to drive consumption on digital media through original premium content.

In addition to creating content for its website, Arré also distributes content to platforms such as Saavn, YuppTV, SonyLiv, Jio, Ola, MX Player, Hotstar, Vodafone Play and FireTV Stick.

OTT video platform revenue projections (*KPMG in India analysis, 2019, based on primary and secondary research)OTT video platform revenue projections (*KPMG in India analysis, 2019, based on primary and secondary research)“We have consistently worked toward this goal across formats – web series, fiction and non-fiction video, audio, articles, doodles – and genres, and have built a differentiated voice,” said Ajay Chacko, co-founder and CEO.

On average, the company has more than 250 million monthly users through the website, social media pages and the 20+ OTT platforms it is available on. About 80-90% of Arré’s audience stems from mobile devices.

The brand’s distribution and monetisation models have evolved with the market. While a part of the content is available only on the website and its social media channels, a chunk of content is distributed across partner platforms.

“We choose our distribution funnels depending upon how advertiser-friendly the content is, the scale of the content itself, and the monetisation potential,”
– Ajay Chacko, co-founder and CEO of Arré

The brand houses “The Arré Studio” dedicated to creating large-scale shows and mini-series in collaboration with domestic and international OTT platforms, broadcast television and movie screens.

Launched in August 2018, its operations are spearheaded by filmmaker Harsh Dave who has several Indian TV shows and international feature films to his credit. “Given the scale of these shows, we co-opt talent from TV, digital, Hollywood and Bollywood for each project, depending on the sensibility, genre and nature of show,” said Chacko.

Future of OTT in India

Arré is part of a nine-member committee of the Online Curated Content Providers that has created and signed a self-regulatory code of best practices under the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI).

“We believe the consumer should be empowered to choose age-appropriate content based on adequate disclosure through a ratings system and a complaint/redressal mechanism,” said Chacko.

India is the second largest global smartphone market, overtaking the United States, and second to China. In 2019, adults spent an average of 1 hour 29 minutes per day on digital platforms, according to a research by eMarketer.

In the past two years, the average digital consumption in India has seen 2X growth, as per a BCG-CII report. An increase in the overall video consumption has aided the OTT industry to grow at 16% CAGR in the past two years. In 2019, Netflix India reported net profits of Rs 5.1 crore ($719,419.26) a 25X jump from Rs 20 lakh ($28,212.52) in 2017-18.

Sajith Pai@sajithpai

MAUs of leading Indian content apps via @RedSeer‘s newsletter. Not sure abt the calc / approach.

YT, FB all left out interestingly.

Hotstar MAUs are incredible (even accounting for cricket), and perhaps overstated. Still even 200m+ is terrific to have.


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“This is a big moment for OTT in India. Consumption of content online has never been greater, given the availability of cheap and high-speed data,” said Chacko.

“I see consumption continuing to grow exponentially with a large part of this occurring in regional languages. There is a great hunger for new, original content and that will continue to drive audiences to OTT platforms,” – Ajay Chacko

Diverse monetisation

Arré’s revenue sources are multiple – branded content (seamless integration of a brand’s message or product in videos, articles and doodles), syndication (content distribution to other OTT platforms), advertising (through distribution across Arré’s website, social channels and partner platforms) and Arré Studio (from other OTT players). The lion’s share is brought in through branded content and studio revenue from platforms.

The company integrates branded content into the story and screenplay during the writing process to make it seem natural to the tonality of the show or the character conveying the brand message.

For Arré, it is of paramount importance that the viewer feels no disconnect between the brand messaging and the show.

“Arré partnered with Gillette and Palo Alto Networks for the award-winning show A.I.SHA with both the brands seamlessly woven into the narrative throughout the three seasons,” said Chacko.

The company also innovates with formats to make brand communication differentiated and engaging.

It recently launched one of India’s largest branded-content campaigns with Axe fronted by a music video anthem that was themed around the headline thought, “What makes a man, a man?” and busted busting traditional male stereotypes. “We take this approach to all formats, including text and doodles,” added Chacko.

The nature of branding varies with projects. If Arré licenses the streaming rights, then the Internet Protocol (IP) belongs to Arré fully or is shared with the licensing platform. However, if the IP is given to the platform, Arré is then credited with producing the content.

Syndication involves creating shows that are a mix of branded and unbranded content, for the Arré website and also for other OTT players. For instance, Arré, with Saavn, co-created an eight-part audio investigative series, “Trial by Error – The Aarushi Files,” which was India’s first true-crime audio series, and drew immense critical acclaim.

However, rather than seeing India’s other OTT platforms as competition, Arré views at it as an opportunity to collaborate with these platforms to create and co-create original content.

“There is a large demand-supply gap in original entertainment, and we’re working with almost all of the OTT platforms to create large-scale originals that play out on their platforms or simultaneously play out on Arré and the other platform,” Chacko said.

Arré’s articles are primarily in English and a few in Hindi.

Video and audio content is available in Hindi, English and Hinglish (a combination of Hindi and English) and a few shows are in Tamil and Telugu.

The company has an array of content to kick off 2020, starting with season 3 of one of their most popular shows “Chukyagiri.” This will be followed by a couple of new franchises in the drama and comedy genres, and the fourth season of A.I.SHA.

The brand also plans to launch a slate of originals in Marathi. Viewers will also be witness to a few of Arré’s audio and video studio shows launching on various OTT platforms.

Neha Gupta

Multimedia Journalist

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